PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age, affecting about 10% of women in this age group.
Symptoms of PCOS include:
The doctor may suspect that PCOS is the cause from the symptoms listed above. Hormonal blood tests and a pelvic ultrasound scan are used to confirm the diagnosis.
Although PCOS is not completely reversible, there are a number of treatments that can reduce or minimise bothersome symptoms. Most women with PCOS are able to lead a normal life without significant complications if they seek timely and appropriate treatment.
If the main concern of the woman is the symptom of irregular periods, the usual treatment is the oral contraceptive pill which will almost always restore regular periods. This treatment is obviously not suitable for women trying to conceive.
InfertilityThe irregular and infrequent ovulation caused by PCOS can make it difficult to conceive. Ovulation can be induced artificially using medications. The most commonly used drug is clomiphene (Clomid) which is taken in tablet form for 5 days. If the tablets fail, hormone injections can be used to stimulate the ovaries. Careful supervision by a specialist is necessary as there is a danger that the ovaries become overstimulated, leading to multiple pregnancies, or the potentially life threatening ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). In selected cases where the women are unresponsive to medical treatment, surgery in the form of laparoscopic ovarian drilling can be used to diathermise part of the ovary, thereby correcting hormonal imbalance and allowing ovulation to occur.
Excessive hair growthLocal techniques such as depilatory creams, shaving, waxing, bleaching, plucking and electrolysis may prove useful but need to be repeated. Suppression of male hormone production with tablets such as the oral contraceptive pill or an anti-male hormone drug such as Cyproterone acetate may reduce excessive hair growth if used for at least 9 months. Laser hair removal is the best available long-term method and may be performed if the other modalities do not help.
ObesityA change in lifestyle, paying particular attention to diet and exercise can help weight loss. Studies have shown that the many symptoms including irregular menstruations, risk of early death and debilitating complications can be significantly reduced if certain lifestyle changes are undertaken, including a controlled diet, vigorous exercise and weight reduction.
Metformin improves the effectiveness of insulin produced by the body. It is used to treat the insulin abnormalities associated with PCOS in selected patients. This medication can decrease the ovary's production of androgens and restore the body's normal hormone balance resulting in improvement of some signs and symptoms of PCOS.